Wayne Sharpe - president's Award
BMHOF Class of 2017
Wayne Sharpe may be one of the most listened to composers on earth, even though most of his audience has never heard of his name.
If you listened to televised election coverage on CBS or to the evening news with Scott Pelley, you heard Sharpe’s music. If you’ve sat in the seats at an IMAX theater, you’ve heard him when the IMAX theme has played. If you’ve listened to many of NHL-TV’s hockey programs, that was likely his music, too.
And that doesn’t even include the international work he’s done for Indian/Bollywood films and dozens of other American movies, TV shows and commercial branding campaigns (including over 200 nationally televised commercials for companies ranging from Intel to McDonald’s to Revlon).
On the way this fall is a track by Pearl Jam that he co-produced with band member Stone Gossard and Steven Argila.
It could be said that Sharpe – relatively anonymously – has been writing the soundtrack of our lives over the past 25 years.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his credits, but when Sharpe was growing up on Grand Island, he originally considered other paths.
“My dad was a science teacher at Grand Island, and I was good at math and science,” Sharpe said. “I went to Fredonia to study audio engineering and music, and then I was also enrolled in the genetic engineering program. I wasn’t sure which direction I was going to go into.”
Sharpe credits Fredonia professor Keith Peterson with playing a major role in his life and his music. Sharpe said he wasn’t yet a music major, but he convinced Peterson to let him into an electronic composing class.
“I talked with him and said, ‘this is what I want to do, with synthesizers,’ and I played him my music, and he let me in,” Sharpe said. “It was the best thing. I really excelled in it. I ended up teaching the class once in a while because I got into the computers.”
At the same time, his piano performance career hit a roadblock. He was practicing three hours a day and came down with tendinitis. It forced him to switch to using a softer touch on synthesizers, and he also started composing and programming.
It was also in Peterson’s class that he met David Musial (2015 BMHOF inductee and later a mentor to Wayne), an older student who brought in an E-MU synthesizer and demonstrated it.
“I walked up to him and said, ‘this is going to change everything. This is going to change the entire music industry,’” Sharpe said. “I was playing Rachmaninoff on the Steinways and just blowing out my wrists and tendons, so I started composing on the synthesizers. … That’s basically what I do now.”
After graduating from Fredonia in 1990, Sharpe started his career in the Buffalo area, working for funk legend Rick James in James’ Orchard Park studio, known as The Joint. He assisted engineer Bruce Kane. Sharpe did synth programming and general studio work.
“It was a great experience seeing these records being made, seeing Rick working with the musicians,” Sharpe said. “They’d be doing a drum track and Rick would say, ‘no, I want it like this,’ and play it beautifully. And then he’d walk over to the bass player and do the same thing.”
Sharpe said he still treasures the experience of working with James and musicians like guitarist Kenny Hawkins and keyboardist Gregory Treadwell.
Sharpe then moved to New York to take a job as a keyboard/synth specialist at Sam Ash. On his first day David Byrne was a customer. He found himself selling keyboards to the likes of the Beach Boys and Phil Collins and helped Tommy Shaw of Styx with programming and studio set-up.
At the same time, he started doing film soundtrack work, collaborating with Richard Horowitz (another musician with Buffalo roots) on indie projects. From there, it snowballed.
His list of credits includes work for CBS, NBC, HBO, Samsung, Discovery, Showtime, ESPN, the NBA, the Olympics, Mobil, Revlon, the Martha Stewart Show, the “Yu-Ghi-Oh” theme and “Pokemon.”
Sharpe has been nominated twice for Emmys, for Showtime’s “Against the Tide” in 2014 and in 2016 for “All Access: Quest For The Stanley Cup.“
He’s become a pro’s pro, known for both quality and speed. Frequently he’s called on to write full orchestrations within a day or two, as with the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageant themes.
But his biggest musical – and geographic – journey in recent years has been to India. He met director and producer Prakash Jha in New York, and Prakash asked him to work on some of his films. He has since composed original scores for four of Jha’s films as well as for several other Indian films.
“It’s a very different style of music,” Sharpe said. “What I would do is blend the Western sounds and style – they wanted a mix of the Hollywood sounds with the Bollywood sounds.
“So I would take very large orchestral sounds and score them in a Western way, but also incorporate all of the Indian instruments and Indian melodies as well.”
So what’s left for Sharpe to accomplish? Well, lots, actually. He said he’s been moving into doing the music for trailers for high-profile films.
He also would welcome working with the Goo Goo Dolls again, having worked with them when they were recording their early albums with Armand Petri at Trackmaster in Buffalo.
There’s just so much music left to write.
For more information on Wayne Sharpe, visit his website at: waynesharpecomposer.virb.com